Impeachment-General Grant to be Included
February 4, 1867
Congressmen debated and argued over the use of their power of Impeachment. While it started with just talk of Johnson's Impeachment soon spread to other civil officers of Government, including General Grant.
It will be remembered that about a month ago Mr. Ashley offered a resolution in the House of Representatives directing the Judiciary Committee to inquire if any officer of the United States had been guilty of high crimes or misdemeanors within the meaning of the Constitution, or had conspired to subvert the Constitution of the United States. As soon as the resolution was read, Mr. Bingham jumped from his seat and went over to Mr. Ashley, to whom he addressed some very strong language, asking him what he meant by such a proposition as that, and why he didn't frame it to apply to the President only, instead of making it a drag-net to include every officer of the Government. Ashley hesitated awhile, affected a knavish smile, and replied that "he guessed it was all right." "No, it isn't all right," said Bingham. "It's a stab at General Grant, and no such malicious thing shall go through the House if I can help it." "Suppose it does include Grant," said Ashley, "can't we investigate his conduct too? and can't we impeach him, if he has been guilty, under the resolution?" Bingham looked at Ashley a moment and replied in nervous wrath, "Ashley, you're a fool. Don't you know it you can't impeach any but a civil officer of the Government under the Constitution?" By this time quite a group had collected where the colloquy was being held, and Thad. Stevens, scenting a breeze, had come over to avert a storm. Addressing him, Bingham asked what was the meaning of this damnable assault upon General Grant. "Oh, nothing," said Stevens, in his insidious way, "only we want to investigate some charges recently made against him. I don't see why Grant should be free from investigation any more than Johnson. He's just as bad as Johnson." Bingham addressed Ashley, in presence of several members, in language like this : "Tell the honest truth now, who instigated that resolution ?" "Why, what makes you think it wasn't my own?" inquired Ashley. "Because," said Bingham, "I know there is too much cunning in it for you, and I'll bet you anything you dare that Thad. Stevens or Ben. Butler either wrote it or dictated its spirt." Ashley again protested against Bingham's right to question the authorship: and Bingham again repeated that there was too much craft and design about it for anybody but Stevens or Butler. What from Bingham's earnestness and Ashley's faintly disguised equivocation, the dispute had become quite interesting, and a number of Radical members had collected around the disputants. After some further bantering and badgering on Bingham's part, Ashley confessed that "Stevens had a little to do with it, and Butler had a little to do with it, and that one of its principal objects was to give Butler an opportunity of making and proving certain charges against General Grant.''
About this article
“Impeachment-General Grant to be Included,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 22, 2018, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/512.